There are countless examples in our own day of choosing to suffer for the purpose of Colossians 1:24—to fill up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions by presenting them to others through suffering.16 In late 1995, as I was working on the second edition of this book, a missionary letter describing such suffering came to my attention. I quickly e-mailed the missionary in Africa to confirm the facts. He spoke personally with Dansa, the man in question, and got his permission for me to quote this story in Dansa’s words from the letter:
Around 1980 there was a time of severe persecution from the local officials of the communist government in my area of Wolayta. At the time, I was working in a government office, but I was also serving as the leader of the Christian youth association for all the churches in my area. The communist officials repeatedly came to me to ask for my help in teaching the doctrines of the revolution among the youth. Many other Christians were giving in because the pressure was very great, but I could only say no.
At first, their approach was positive: they offered me promotions and pay increases. But then the imprisonments began. The first two were fairly short. The third time lasted an entire year. During this time communist cadres would regularly come to brainwash the nine of us believers (six men and three women—one of whom would later become my wife) who were being held together. But when one of the cadres converted to Christ, we were beaten and forced to haul water from long distances and carry heavy stones to clear farm land.
The worst time came during a two-week period in which the prison official would wake us early while it was still dark when no one would see and force us to walk on our bare knees over a distance up to 1 1/2 kilometers on the gravel road of the town. It would take us about three hours. After the first day, the blood flowed from our wounds like a fountain, but we felt nothing.
On another occasion one particularly brutal prison official forced us to lie on our backs under the blazing sun for six straight hours. I don’t know why I said it, but when we finished I told him, “You caused the sun’s rays to strike us, but God will strike you.” A short time later, the official contracted severe diabetes and died.
When the communist government fell several years later, the head official invited us to preach in the jail. At that time, twelve prisoners being held for murder received Christ. We have continued to minister in the prison, and there are now 170 believers. Most of the prison officials have also believed.
Only God can sort out all the influences that led to this remarkable time of harvest among the prison inmates and officials. But surely it would be naïve to think that the suffering of Dansa was not part of the compelling presentation of the reality of Christ in the lives of those who believed.
John Piper, Desiring God (Sisters, Or.: Multnomah Publishers, 2003), 274-75.